Friday, August 26, 2011

Voting in the Name of Discourse not Spite

I voted in favour of abolishing the HST.  45% of British Columbians have names to call me for doing so.

I was going to write about this before the referendum, but I didn't manage to squeeze it into my schedule and I didn't really expect it was going to change many opinions.

For starters, lets put my cards on the table, as best I can:

- I'm fairly left in my politics.  Less so economically than socially, but the chances of me ever voting for a Liberal who wasn't federal is pretty slim... and even that is unlikely.
- I started hating Gordon Campbell (as opposed to simply disliking him) around the time of the DUI.
- I am not an economist.
- I do work in film - one of the industries most likely to benefit from the HST.

I have no idea whether the HST is a good thing or not.  Chances are that if you do any kind of honest assessment you don't know either.  See above - I am not an economist.

In the last month or two before the referendum there was a fair bit of ink and YouTube air-time spent imploring people to not use the referendum as an opportunity to "get back" at the Liberals or Gordon Campbell.  The latter being a truly foolish idea, the former being dumb, but not as dumb as at least they are still in office.  The angriest people out there will fail to see the distinction between voting down the HST because Gordon Campbell and/or the Liberals are Satan-spawn and my actual reason... but we aren't there yet.

Is the HST good for BC?  I don't know (I am not an economist.)  But I've heard plenty of arguments from both sides and consistently both sides loft arguments with transparently un-provable premises supported by demonstrably cherry-picked data.  The HST may be good for BC.  It may not.  Unless you are an economist, you don't know either, frankly.  Even economists are divided on this, so really what do we know beyond best guesses?

I am totally open to the possibility that the HST is good for BC.  I am willing to (once we remove it) re-instate it.  (People on both ends of the political spectrum are falling victim to exploding brains right now because of that comment.)

So here's the thing.  I voted against the HST - despite being able to provide good arguments for why it was financially against my best interests - because it was the democratically correct thing to do and I hold that standard above my pocketbook.  The manner in which the HST was implemented was wrong.  Grotesquely wrong.  I would have been mad at any party who made an election promise and then turned around and flagrantly went against that promise.  We aren't talking about a party who made a promise and failed to accomplish it.  (I am quite deliberately avoiding the contention that the Libs already had significant discussions on the HST before the election.)  The Liberals said they weren't moving forward with the HST, then when the federal government ponied up 1.6 billion they moved forward against their previous - and important to the election - promise.

Think about that seriously.  What is the point of even having an election if your elected officials have free rein to behave in that manner?  Yes.  The circumstances had changed.  But in that case the right thing to do in a democracy would be to take the pulse of the electorate.  I'm not even talking about a referendum here - no need for that expense (back then) - a few town halls to get some input and to let us know that you are considering with apparently good reason to significantly change your previous stance.  The wrong answer was to implement the tax without previous warning or regard for the people who elected you.  This is fairly well established.  The everyone on the Liberal side of the aisle pretty much admits this.  It was nothing if not poorly handled.  And of course we all know that Gordon Campbell eventually resigned largely due to how poorly his ratings had dropped on account of the HST.

So, if Campbell had already paid the price then why vote down the HST?

This is really quite simple.  The government - and by that I mean the body we historically call "the government", not only now but into the future, thus not just the Liberals in power, but whomever should follow in the short or long term - need to receive the message that political process must be followed respectfully in a democracy.  And I am willing to pay a price for that point to unequivocably be made.  That means I am willing to pay my share of the roughly 3 billion dollars that changing back from HST will cost us.  I am willing to pay any loss the HST may cost in tax revenue.  I am even willing to pay to reinstate the HST (or a replacement) so long as it is put in place in a democratically acceptable fashion.  I believe that fairly executed democracy is worth paying for.  Not sending that message to now and future governments is in fact send the opposite message - condoning such behaviour.

So yes, my vote may have cost BC something.  But don't think for a second that I voted against BCs best interests.  Quite the opposite.  I voted to live in the kind of society I believe in.